November 25, 2014 at 7:30 AM
As a special extension of our Top 40 in Review series, are closing this year by featuring the six players who were ranked in the SoxProspects.com Top 10 during the 2014 season and graduated from prospect status.
Xander Bogaerts, SS/3B
Peak System Ranking: #1
Graduated: May 2 (#1)
2014 Teams: Boston Red Sox
Final Stats: 594 PA, .240/.297/.362, 28 2B, 1 3B, 12 HR, 39 BB, 138 SO, 2 SB
Season in Review: With incumbent shortstop Stephen Drew choosing to decline the Red Sox's qualifying offer last offseason, Bogaerts was cemented into the starting shortstop role for 2014. After the mega prospect impressed in 2013, forcing himself into the starting lineup during the Red Sox World Series run, expectations were high. However, it was an up-and-down season both with the bat and in the field for the young phenom, who played the entirety of the season as a 21-year-old. Through June 3, Bogaerts was Boston's most productive hitter, slashing .304/.395/.464 in 238 plate appearances and ranking in the top three in on-base percentage in the American League.
Unfortunately, things quickly went south for Bogaerts. Fretting over the lack of production at third base and the barren free agent market at the position, the Red Sox panicked and re-signed Drew in late May, moving the youngster to the hot corner, a position he had manned in only 28 games in his professional career, including the postseason. Having already worked through some defensive kinks at shortstop, Xander collapsed both in the field and at the plate. He spent the summer flailing away to a .147/.193/.212 line with a 12/64 BB/K ratio, and collected just nine extra base hits in 250 plate appearances while appearing out of place at third. With the club out of contention by the trade deadline, the Sox shipped Drew to New York, allowing Bogaerts to return to his natural position. From then on, his defense was markedly better, and he finished on a high note offensively, wrapping up his final 106 plate appearances with a .320/.324/.500 line and four home runs, albeit with just two walks to 20 strikeouts.
While many fans were no doubt disappointed with Bogaerts’ ultimate 2014 performance, that feeling fueled by the contrast of his performance to his elite prospect hype following a terrific 2013 postseason—it is crucial to remember that Bogaerts will be just 22 years old during the 2015 season. Only Bryce Harper, by a mere 15 days, was a younger opening day starter in 2014. The future remains bright for the talented shortstop, and the Red Sox are likely to rebuff several teams inquiring about his availability this offseason. - Matt Picard
Scouting Report and 2015 Outlook: It is easy to forget that Bogaerts played the entire 2014 season at the age of 21; for comparison, Deven Marrero turned 24 during the season and only just reached Triple-A. Expectations coming into the season were extremely high and Bogaerts had an up-and-down season, showing flashes of what he could be, but also really struggling for long periods of time. Bogaerts progressed through the minors very quickly, showing the ability to hit for both average and power with a solid approach. During 2014, however, after a strong start, his approach seemed to regress as the season progressed, as he became very susceptible to breaking pitches and fastballs up in the zone. He seemed to be pressing for long stretches, was not adjusting to how big league pitching was handling him, and his strikeout rate skyrocketed. Bogaerts started to turn things around near the end of the season, and will look to carry that into next season.
When he’s at his best, Bogaerts has a smooth, fluid swing and elite batspeed generated by explosive hands. He gets good extension in his swing and has shown the ability to drive the ball with backspin to all fields. These characteristics are still there, and are why Bogaerts still projects as a player who will develop plus-to-better power, with a plus-to-better hit tool. Going into the year, there were more questions about Bogaerts's defense, and while he did not play shortstop the entire season, when he was there, he performed as expected. Bogaerts is never going to be a plus defender there, but he showed he could play an adequate shortstop. He will make errors and his range does not match up to past prospects like Jose Iglesias or Deven Marrero. Bogaerts does have a plus arm, and for the most part, makes the plays he should. Even with the recent signings of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, Bogaerts looks set to head into next season as Boston's starting shortstop, a sign that the Red Sox still have confidence in him. If he can carry his late season improvements into next year and hit like he is expected to, then Bogaerts could be in for a breakout season, establishing himself as one of the most exciting young players in the game and a cornerstone for the organization going forward. - Ian Cundall
Additional editorial support provided by Norm Cimon.
Photo credit: Kelly O'Connor